November 19, 2007 / 9:43 AM / in 11 years

Myanmar's detained Suu Kyi taken to state guesthouse

YANGON (Reuters) - Myanmar’s detained opposition leader Aung San Suu Kyi was taken on Monday from her villa to a state guesthouse where she is believed to have met the ruling junta’s liaison minister, opposition sources and witnesses said.

Witnesses said a government car with tinted windows left Suu Kyi’s tightly guarded lakeside villa in the main city of Yangon and returned about one hour later.

There was no comment from the regime, but the most likely explanation was a meeting with Aung Kyi, a senior member of the ruling military junta appointed as a go-between after September’s pro-democracy protests.

“We heard about the meeting between U Aung Kyi and Daw Aung San Suu Kyi this afternoon,” said Nyan Win, a spokesman for Suu Kyi’s National League for Democracy.

It would be their third meeting since Aung Kyi’s appointment amid world outrage at the military crackdown, in which the junta says 15 people were killed. Western diplomats put the toll much higher.

Some observers said a meeting might have been timed to deflect criticism at this week’s annual get-together of the 10-nation Association of South East Asian Nations (ASEAN) in Singapore.

Myanmar Prime Minister Thein Sein was due later on Monday to brief his counterparts on events in the former Burma for the first time since the crackdown.

“I just think it’s a face-saving measure for the prime minister at the summit,” a veteran Yangon politician said.

Suu Kyi, who has spent 12 of the past 18 years under house arrest, has said her previous meetings with Aung Kyi were constructive and she was ready to work with the military to establish proper negotiations.

Junta leader Than Shwe, who is believed to personally loathe the Nobel laureate, has offered direct negotiations if she agrees to certain preconditions, including dropping her support for sanctions.

However, his comments reported by state media on Saturday that the only path to political reform is via the junta’s own “roadmap to democracy” suggests any talks will have to take place within that framework.

Western governments have dismissed the roadmap as a blue-print for the army legitimising its grip on power after 45 years of unbroken military rule.

Under an outline for a new charter, the head of the army will be the most powerful person in the country, with the ability to appoint key cabinet figures and suspend the constitution in the event of an emergency that he defines.

Reporting by Aung Hla Tun; writing by Darren Schuettler; editing by Roger Crabb

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